Lord every nation on earth will adore you (Psalm 72: 11)! Joyous Feast of the Epiphany to you and yours! Today we celebrate a royal feast – our Infant Christ is acknowledged Divine and worshiped by kings. Each and every human heart is called to adore Him. Like the Magi of long ago, we are summoned to do likewise. Today’s Liturgy of the Hours directs:
Mighty and wonderful are your works, Lord God Almighty! Righteous and true are Your ways, O King of the nations.
Who would dare refuse you honor or the glory due Your Name O Lord?
Since you alone are holy, all nations shall come to worship in Your presence. For your righteous deeds have been revealed.
Since You alone are holy all nations shall come and worship in your presence. Your mighty deeds are clearly seen (Revelations 15: 3-4).
The Feast of the Epiphany is so beautiful! What heart can remain frozen when contemplating the image of the young Virgin shyly unwrapping the newborn Christ child before the adoring Magi, as they offer gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh? This Feast is an intricate mingling of bitter and sweet. While we rejoice in the triumphant arrival of the kings, a shadow of Herod’s dark threats looms in the background. Even the royal gifts are tinged with hint of impending sorrow. The Epiphany finalizes Christmas- with their arrival, the Magi bring a sense of completeness. With their arrival, the ancient prophecies are fulfilled:
O God, with Your judgment endow the King and with Your justice the King’s Son; He shall govern Your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgment.
Justice shall flower in His days, and profound peace till the moon be no more. May He rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts and the Kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him (Respnsorial Psalm from Epiphany Mass, Psalm 72: 1, 8, 10).
Yet, today as we rejoice in the exuberance that is the Feast of the Epiphany, tomorrow we return to Ordinary Time. The figures of porcelain are packed away for another year, the pines are hauled out of our homes and churches, and we turn from celebration to the daily duty of living Christmas in our hearts. Like the Magi, we must return to our former lives. This is a challenge. It is easy to glow in the presence of the Christmas Christ-Child, yet far more difficult to bring His presence into the hum of daily life. Even more thorny is the daily preparation to follow Him along the way of the cross to Calvary.
The Magi had embarked upon a long and perilous journey. As we celebrate their Epiphany today, Sacred Scripture in the Gospel Reading relates that they followed an amazing star, a sign from God.
And behold, the star they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the Child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the Child with Mary, His Mother. They prostrated themselves and did Him homage. They opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, Frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2: 9-11).
We can only imagine their delight as they encountered the One for Whom they had so earnestly sought. These well-born and powerful men were not the first to adore the Christ-child; angels, shepherds, and countless others claimed that honor. Yet, even as among the last, these were the first of many nations to give the glory that is due Him. A miraculous star had illumined their path, guiding their journey –insuring a safe arrival. Now as they embarked upon their return travel, the real challenge began. Without the brilliance of the star, they were forced to navigate unknown darkness. Recall, they had been warned in a dream of Herod’s intentions, and were forced to return home by an unchartered route. They had come to know the King of Kings, and now were challenged to accept His Light within themselves. No longer would a beacon of light travel ahead of them, rather it was now to illumine their path by traveling inside of them.
Many centuries later, we too must walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5: 7). We were not among the shepherds and angels who adored Him face to face on Christmas night, but like the Magi, we may continue to approach, bringing the gift of our very selves. Similarly, we too embark upon a challenging journey. This week, as we begin to set aside the visible images of the Nativity scene, a more enduring image must take root within our hearts. While the plastic and porcelain figures are wrapped and packed away, we are called to render a permanent abode within our hearts for Jesus, our Savior. As the people in darkness who have seen a Great Light (Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:14) we must endeavor to carry this Light within our hearts, and bring it to the very ends of the earth.
Ad Jesum per Mariam,